Monday, March 23, 2009

wildebeests with calves

Olkiombo prides female & sub-adults



March Game Report from Masai Mara:

The months of February and March have been the best in terms of game viewing in the Mara. Though it has been dry from the beginning of the year, the intermittent rains we have got has given the grounds enough water to produce the much needed grass which has in turn attracted many herbivores.

The Mara would be almost empty at this time traditionally; but it seems times are changing going by what we are currently witnessing.
There is a high concentration of wildebeests and zebras to the north of the reserve around Musiara gate, Rhino ridge and paradise plains. These herds are part of the local migration commonly referred to as the Loita migration. These herds normally heads to the Loita plains at the end of the migration in November, when the main migrating herds are going back to the Serengeti.

Their re-entry into the reserve is usually around June, just weeks before the main migrants from the south enter the Mara. The movement of this easterly migration into the Mara at that time is an indication that the main migration from the south is just about to enter the Mara.

The sight of the mini migration type of animals concentration in the north Mara has brought life to the would be otherwise empty plains.
With these herds, are accompanying predators, lions, cheetah leopard etc.

The wildebeests gives birth at the end of February and early march in their traditional calving grounds in the Loita, east of Masai Mara and southern Serengeti. However due to the above situation, we witnessed many births in the Mara this year, and that is unusual.
This presented a lot of hazards to the young wildebeest from the Mara’s predators, mainly Hyaena and cheetah.

The inconsistent rain has made the herds settle here due to availability of grass.
The change in the land use in their traditional calving grounds, coupled with the climatic changes has contributed to this change of habit.
The big question now is; could we be the beginning of a change in their migration pattern?

Big cats:
The big cats in the Mara have been seen throughout the season. Lions have been seen in their territories as usual with no changes in the habits especially for the northern prides due to the availability of food. Otherwise in other parts especially central and south Mara, where there are not many herbivores, the prides in these areas have now adopted a lean season strategy.
Leopards are not affected much since they are adaptable to a variety of food. They have been seen throughout the season, with the usual family of Olive, Binti, Kali and Ayah seen regularly along the Talek river. They have however, extended their territory beyond Mara Explorer camp upstream. The riverine forest between Mara Intrepids/Explorer camps make it difficult to follow them throughout, but it is good because they don’t stay there too long unless they have a kill. The family of Mr. Shah, who were staying at Mara Intrepids recently had the opportunity of seeing these leopard family and several others. They were able to count 12 leopard sighting over their one week stay, beating their own earlier record of 10. This is not unusual on this side of the Mara. Here with permission, I quote their testimonial:

‘’I cannot believe that we beat our leopard sightings this time round, really did not expect that. It was fantastic. Kali is a real character, although he is too confident with cars…and when he was scratching the door on Dixon’s driver side and peering up was quite scary and too close for comfort. I’m glad he did not jump on our car bonnet. A few of our highlights were: seeing the hippo run and jump into the river; leopard (kali I think) jumping out of the bush right next to us while we were taking pictures of dik dik; seeing koori bustards (incorrect spelling); olive and kali walking/running together etc.’’ Sonal Shah

Cheetahs have also been seen regularly. Shakira, the Big Cat Live program star has been roaming the plains between Musiara, Paradise and Olkiombo area. She has managed to keep the remaining three cubs safe and they are growing healthy. The three brothers (The late Honey’s cubs) have also been in the same area as Shakira, and occasionally been harassing her just as seen during the Big Cat Live in October last year.
The female that had 7 cubs in January is now remaining with two. She has been moving between Olare-Orok Conservancy and Olkiombo.


Mary Bowman-Kruhm said...

Oh, Paul, reading how wonderful March has been for viewing wildlife makes me wish Carl and I were visiting the Mara, as we were last March! Best to everyone there.

Vulture man said...

It has been unbelievable! March has never been like this in recent years in the northern Mara.